Do you want to see a grown man cry?  Have him select a color from more than three options and watch him drop to his knees in tears.  I’m beginning to think that choice is highly over rated.  

The scariest words in the English language must be…”would you like fries with that? Shoestring or country, crosscut or curly, salted or unsalted?  And would you like dipping sauce with that?” 

What about coffee?  What happen to a plain old cup of Joe?  I mean…what the hell is a half-caff, non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte and while I’m at it, what happen to just small, medium or large?  Choice is everywhere and there seems to be no escape.  We have too many buttons, options, selections and app’s. 

The kitchen industry has not been spared from this curse, but it seems that we as a industry have embraced choice with gusto.  On the cabinet side of the house we have more variety of wood species to choose from than ever before.  What happen to oak, pine, maple and walnut?  Now we can offer Wenge, Rosewood, Zebra and Pear as well as exotic veneers and technical veneers…all in different cuts and finishes.  And colors…there was a time you had 4 or 5 standard color selections and some companies may have even offered up to 20, but today with computer color matching, there are over 2,000 variations to choose from.  

What about features and accessories?  Drawer options, waste options, cutlery dividers, pan storage, tall storage options, lighting options, interior and exterior. 

When we look at the appliance side of the house, the mountain of choice is even greater.  From convection oven, micro-convection oven, steam-convection ovens to just plain radiant heat is only the beginning of the maze.  The choices of refrigerators would make your head explode:  24”, 30” 36” and 48”, available in single and double door, side by side or French doors and ice options that would dazzle any Barman worth his salt. 

Not to stop there, what about our choices in cook-tops such as gas, electric and induction, as well as combinations of all three.  And the selection of dishwashers available with sensors, onboard computers and Wi-Fi connectivity, and enough on board for a manned mission to the moon, leaving one completely dazed and confused. 

During a recent sales presentation, I was going over all the details for the final kitchen design.  From what type of wood to use, what finish, handles, accessories and features –to what type of lighting, flooring and countertop material they would like–when the client threw up his hands and shouted “enough!”.  and said, “Kevin, why are you asking me all these question when you’re the expert here?  What am I paying you for?”  It was a clear cut case of “sensory-overload” with too many selections and options from which to choose.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “simplify, simplify!”   I say just “Simplify! (period).”   I truly believe that we have so over complicated the process that our clients are paralyzed with fear.  We need to take greater control of the process. 

In another presentation, while we were going over every detail in the kitchen, I looked up at the client as her eyes moved up inside her eyelid.   When she noticed me looking at her, she sat up-right, gathered herself together and said to me, ”Kevin, it’s going to look like this, right?”  Pointing to the display she then said, ”Fine, how much do you need to get started?” 

Keep your sales approach simple, nothing complicated.  Your showroom and displays should educate your client to the benefits and value of your product or service, as well as create an atmosphere of trust and dependability,   Keep your options to a minimum.  Limit how many cabinet and appliance lines you need to carry.   What are the 3 or 4 finishes that make up most of your business?  What counter-top material do you always specify?  If you go back over your projects for the last year or two, you will see a pattern of design elements, appliances and finishes emerge.  Those are the winners. 

So take control, lead your client, and don’t drown them in details.  Simplify their lives and you will see your jobs close faster and that your clients will be happier.  I think that DEVO, that iconic 80’s band, said it best…”What we want is freedom from choice”.

I published this article written by Kevin Henry in 2012, and it still stands today.  Designer, writer and speaker, Kevin Henry was a recognized “thought-leader” to the kitchen industry for over 30 years sought out for his views and observations regarding market trends and industry direction.  Kevin passed in 2020, but his thoughts and ideas will go on. He was a friend and mentor to many.